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Newly-discovered Tardigrades Glow Deep Blue to Block Harmful UV Rays

Tardigrades glow blue to block UV rays.

Tardigrades glow blue to block UV rays.

Tardigrades might have a biological shielding mechanism, where the animals are absorbing the dangerous radiation and converting it to harmless deep blue light.

Tardigrades or water bears have long fascinated scientists. Now researchers have found a new species of these microscopic animals that is resistant to deadly levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Often called moss piglets, tardigrades are nearly microscopic beings with four pairs of limbs. A tardigrade usually can range from 0.05 millimetres to 1.2 mm in length. These animals are one of the strongest and most indestructible of beings present on the Earth. These have plump bodies and scrunched-up heads and can even survive in space. Scientists believe that even if an asteroid hits earth and destroys all humanity, the tardigrades would continue to live unharmed.

Scientists discovered a new species of tardigrades, known as the Paramacrobiotus BLR, which when exposed to harmful UV radiation remained unaffected. The researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have now suggested a possible explanation in a recent study.

They have opined that the tardigrades have a biological shielding mechanism, where the animals are absorbing the dangerous radiation and converting it to harmless deep blue light.

The team divided the Paramacrobiotus BLR specimens into two halves. While one half was exposed to the radiation, the other was not. The treated sample showed a case of natural fluorescence where they all turned blue. However, the researchers found no difference between the two halves in terms of the number of egg laying, their hatchability and the hatching time, suggesting the UV rays hardly had any effect on them.

Noticing how this species was even more resistant to harmful radiation than the others, the scientist from Bengaluru tried to bring this shielding technique to other organisms. They coated the roundworm C elegans in pigments from the skin of the tardigrades and viola! The treated worms had become more resistant to radiation as well.

The results have been published in the journal Biology Letters on October 14.


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